Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Book Covers and Wine Labels
Sometimes I choose books and bottles of wine by a similar system: if I like the cover or label, I get it. There are serendipities and disappointments, but it is a fun way to choose and most other methods of selection have failed to offer better results. I recently ordered a book from PaperBackSwap.com because I liked the cover art and the title. There was a sunny porch with wicker chairs and a side table with a pitcher of what I liked to think was sweet tea or lemonade. It had a southern feel to it. I envisioned lazy afternoons reading a story of plucky heroines who would warm my heart and make me laugh out loud. When I received the book, the back cover blurb promised an experience along those lines, so I was encouraged.
I began reading and soon started jumping ahead, rather than reading each page through. This is usually a sign that a book isn't clicking for me, but I ignored it. I stuck my bookmark back at the place where I starting skipping and decided to read later when I wasn't so distracted. This experience repeated a number of times. After I had managed to slog through a quarter of the book, a strange thought (for me) crossed my mind. "Why am I reading this book if I don't like it?" I wanted to like it. Wasn't that enough? Well....no.
There a lots of things that I do because I have to do them. That's part of life. Asking myself whether or not I like paying bills or doing laundry or changing diapers is silly. Those tasks must be done. But reading is different. Reading is for pleasure. For fun. I had become so used to steeling myself to complete daily tasks that I'd turned reading a book into another task.
I've had this tendency for a long time. In college, I remember an afternoon when I was obsessively studying my German flash cards. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Knowing me, it was probably a weekend, too. My friend walked over to me and said, "What are you doing?" She grabbed the cards and threw them out the window. Then she poured me a glass of wine. I knew she did the right thing because I wasn't upset by her decisive action. I was relieved; she had saved me from myself.